'Praying for Our Candidates' During a Hostile Election

We asked pastors how they've been praying for America's office-seekers. Here's what they had to say.
'Praying for Our Candidates' During a Hostile Election
Image: Thomas Kelley / Unsplash

In such an unorthodox election cycle, it can be hard to know what our duties and priorities as Christians should be. One thing’s for sure, though: Churches must pray for our political leaders (1 Tim 2:1–2). To help Christian leaders navigate the choppy waters surrounding political prayer, The Local Church asked three pastors two questions:

  1. What are some of your guiding principles when leading your congregation in corporate prayer for this election cycle?
  2. What’s an example of such a prayer that you would pray?

Let’s glean from their wisdom—and join them in prayer:

John Onwuchekwa, Pastor of Cornerstone Church in Atlanta, Georgia:

Guiding Principles: Corporate prayer takes up a significant time of our corporate gathering—usually 15-20 minutes total, split between four prayers. So we don’t pray for our leaders merely around election cycles, but all the time.

Praying for our leaders routinely and regularly helps to remind our church that we’re appealing to someone who’s actually in control. This regularity especially helps mitigate the fears of people who tend to be consumed with politics under the sun, reminding us that our hope for change here on the earth ultimately lies beyond the sun, not under it.

We keep an eye toward unity in the church. Politics tends to divide—especially when you have a diverse church. As we pray, we’re reminded that the biggest obstacle to the church fulfilling its purpose in the world is disunity.

We pray for God to direct our national and local political leaders to promote human flourishing—all of it, from the womb to the tomb. So we’ll pray for God’s help for specific biblical concerns that aren’t usually juxtaposed politically. We know how angry God got when Aaron and the Israelites tried to “honor” him by creating a golden calf to represent his strength; we believe God’s just as offended today when we try to mold Christianity into the shape of any animal, be it donkey or elephant, so we avoid both.

Prayer: Father, the hearts of the kings, leaders, presidents, congressman, and sheriffs are streams of water in the palms of your hands. You direct them. You turn them. Every one of them is acting in such a way that will only advance the agenda that you’ve set since the beginning of time. Help us as a church to remember that truth.

As sure as some of us are panicking right now, because what seemed to be an unfathomable outcome a few months ago seems like it could actually be a possibility, I pray that you would remind us that as far as you’re concerned, there’s nothing new under the sun. It’s new to us, but you’ve seen this before. You’ve dealt with worse. You’re not panicking.

So Father, we ask that you would guide and direct our leaders—all of them—in such a way that enables us to live peaceful and quiet lives. Give our President wisdom, grace, compassion, and conviction as he’s completing his service to our country. Give him special insight and unction to have concern for the defenseless—all the little guys, from those in the womb to those who are working extremely hard but low-paying jobs that might cause them to feel ashamed of bringing new life into the world. I pray that these people, these stories, these faces would be implanted on his heart and would cause him to move out in grace and compassion.

Above all else, Father, remind us that in this room right now, though our earthly politics may differ and the human faces in charge may change, the constant is that our true king always sits on the throne and never changes. So I pray that as your will is revealed to us in the near future, we wouldn’t be gripped with fear. Knowing you means we don’t have to know the future. Remind us of that truth, and help us walk in faithfulness and unity together.

In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Juan R. Sanchez, Pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas:

Guiding Principles: In light of the potential this presidential election has for dividing Christians and churches, it’s particularly important that pastors model to our congregations how to talk about the election cycle, the particular candidates, and each other. Let me share three of the principles that guide us at High Pointe for how we seek to live life together, whether gathered or scattered.

First, we believe that all people are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26) and are to be treated with dignity (James 3:9-12). This principle not only informs how we talk to and about one another, but also how we talk to and about those who differ from us.

Second, Christians are first and foremost citizens of a heavenly kingdom (Phil. 3:20), and we have a king in Jesus who is not elected by a majority vote (Ps. 2). Nothing that happens in this election will undermine our king’s reign or our mission.

Finally, we see government as being instituted by God to promote good and punish evil (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17). Our sovereign Lord will not be surprised by who becomes President. It is our responsibility to follow his or her leadership to the degree that they do not contravene God’s revealed will.

Prayer: Our Father in heaven, we praise you as the sovereign and good God, our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. As our world spins out of control, grant us grace to trust you. Remind us that even if the ground crumbles from underneath our feet, we have no reason to fear, for you are on your throne (Ps. 46:1-3). Remind us that regardless of who wins the 2016 election, you have placed your king on your throne, and his name is Jesus (Ps. 2). He will accomplish all you have set out for him to do, and you will place all his enemies underneath his feet.

But we also know that as ambassadors of our heavenly king and kingdom, we are to be faithful citizens wherever you have placed us on this Earth. In our context, we have the freedom to participate in the political process. Grant us wisdom to do what pleases you; grant us the courage to do what is right. And help us not to put our hope in any candidate now or in the future; help us to put our hope in Christ, our king.

In the name of Jesus Christ, we ask: amen.

Steve Weaver, Pastor of Farmdale Baptist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky:

Guiding Principles: I want to remind our congregation to pray first for the spiritual renewal of our nation in recognition that our greatest need is spiritual, not political. I want us to remember that all human kingdoms have failed and will fail. The only eternal kingdom is the kingdom of Christ. I do, however, want us to pray that American citizens will exercise their right to vote according to their conscience, informed by principles of wisdom and integrity.

I want our congregation to pray specifically for candidates from both major political parties, as well as independent or third-party candidates. I want us to pray that they’ll all be or become people of wisdom and integrity, and for their service on behalf of the American people. I want to pray for the spiritual condition of each man and woman running for the presidency, and that if they’re not trusting in Christ alone for their salvation, they turn to Christ in repentance and faith.

Finally, I want to remind our congregation that we need to pray and vote for local and state leaders as well. I encourage the use of the website pray1tim2.org as a resource to help them pray for state leaders.

Prayer: Our Father, we come before you recognizing that we desperately need you to intervene in our nation and send revival to our land. We confess that we’ve rebelled against you and tried to establish ourselves as kings instead of submitting to your authority. Forgive us for trusting in our government and our leaders when we should have been trusting in you alone.

We thank you for allowing us to live in this country where we have the freedom to vote for our leaders. Please help us as a nation to vote according to consciences that are informed by principles of integrity and wisdom. Please bless and protect those of all political parties who are running for office, from the White House to the statehouse to the courthouse. Grant that those seeking office would do so for the good of others, and not their own prosperity. May they lead with wisdom and integrity. Most importantly, grant that they may know you as their king in order that they may rule as humble servants in this land and for eternity with you, along with all the saints.

In humble submission to your sovereign rule, amen.

June
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'Praying for Our Candidates' During a Hostile Election